Theory & Conjecture into the Past of Chicago's Favorite Ghost

Who is Resurrection Mary?
The most accurate version of the story of Resurrection Mary concerns a young girl who was killed while hitchhiking down Archer Avenue in the early 1930’s. Apparently, she had spent the evening dancing with a boyfriend at the O Henry Ballroom. At some point, they got into an argument and Mary (as she has come to be called) stormed out of the place. Even though it was a cold winter’s night, she thought, she would rather face a cold walk home than another minute with her boorish lover. She left the ballroom and started walking up Archer Avenue. She had not gotten very far when she was struck and killed by a passing automobile. The driver fled the scene and Mary was left there to die. Her grieving parents buried her in Resurrection Cemetery, wearing a white dress and her dancing shoes. Since that time, her spirit has been seen along Archer Avenue, perhaps trying to return to her grave after one last night among the living.

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It has never been known just who the earthy counterpart of Mary might have been, but several years ago, a newspaper report confused things so badly that a number of writers and researchers ended up creating their own "Mary". She was another girl who was tragically killed, but had nothing to do with the woman who haunts Archer Avenue. In the quest to learn Mary’s identity, speculation fell onto a woman named Mary Bregovy, who is also buried in Resurrection Cemetery. Unfortunately, there are too many factors that prevent her from being Resurrection Mary.....

Even though Bregovy was killed in an auto accident in 1934, it is unlikely that she was returning home from the O Henry Ballroom, as some have claimed. The accident in which she was killed took place on Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago. The car that she was riding in collided with an elevated train support and she was thrown through the windshield. This is a far cry from being killed by a hit-and-run driver on Archer Avenue.

Bregovy also did not resemble the phantom that has been reported either. According to memory and photographs, she had short, dark hair, which is the opposite of the fair-skinned blond ghost. Besides that, the undertaker who prepared Bregovy for her funeral, John Satala, recalled that she was buried in an orchid-colored dress, not the white one of legend.

However, John Satala does add an interesting note to the story. In fact, he may have been the person who caused the confusion between spectral "Mary’s" in the first place. In a newspaper interview many years ago, Satala mentioned a caretaker at Resurrection Cemetery who told him that he had seen a ghost on the cemetery grounds. The caretaker believed the ghost was that of Mary Bregovy.

So, if Resurrection Mary was not Mary Bregovy, who was she?

Another woman claimed that Mary was actually the ghost of a young woman named Mary Miskowski, who was killed crossing the street one night in October 1930 on her way to a costume party.

I have spoken to at least three different people over the years who claim that Mary was their babysitter when they were children. All of them tell tragic stories about her death but have never provided any really compelling evidence to say that she eventually became Resurrection Mary.

But if Mary is not one of these, then who can she be? Some have speculated that she never really existed at all. They have disregarded the search for her identity, believing that she is nothing more than an "urban legend" and a piece of fascinating folklore. They believe the story can be traced to nothing more than Chicago’s version of the "vanishing hitchhiker".

While the story of Resurrection Mary does bear some resemblance to the tale, the folklorists have forgotten an important thing that Mary’s story has that the many versions of the other stories do not - credible eyewitness accounts, places, times and dates. Many of these reports are not just stories that have been passed from person to person and rely on a "friend of a friend" for authenticity. In fact, some of the encounters with Mary have been chillingly up close and personal and remain unexplained to this day.

But is she really that great of a mystery? Some believe so, but many doubt that she exists at all. Who is she? No one knows but that has not stopped the stories, tales and even songs from being spun about her. She remains an enigma and her legend lives on, not content to vanish, as Mary does when she reaches the gates to Resurrection Cemetery.



© Copyright 2002 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.